Mohan Umrotkar, CEO, Carnival Cinemas believes that producers who have taken the direct digital route to release films may have done so due to financial pressure.
Mohan Umrotkar, CEO, Carnival Cinemas believes that producers who have taken the direct to digital route to release films may have done so due to financial pressure.
"Though we are disappointed with the move of the filmmakers to go straight to digital, we understand the financial burden/compulsion that one may have in these times. The ones who have decided to go ahead with a digital release were possibly in a difficult situation due to the coronavirus pandemic," he said in a statement.
Recently, Amazon Prime announced digital premieres of films like Gulabo Sitabo starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana, Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi and Jyothika's Ponmagal Vandhal. Zee5 for May 22 has reserved the release date for Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Ghoomketu.
In the statement, he further said, "There is money invested, there may be interest (on it), someone wants to minimise the loss and if they are in a position to monetise it, we can't stop them. The situation is such that you can't blame anyone. In this time of uncertainty some producers have decided to release their content directly on OTT. It is within their rights to decide but we will not release those movies in our theatres."
Whether or not to release a film that has first taken the digital route, in theatres, is a decision only exhibitors can make, but some producers feel theatre owners are showing flexibility in the current times.
Veteran producer Anand Pandit said, "It wasn't seen effective before but now I think a lot of combinations might be possible. I think exhibitors are showing a lot of flexibility. I have a strong feeling that a lot of permutations will emerge in an attempt to make it win-win for all."
However, exhibitors have always taken a strong stand against not releasing films that have first taken the OTT route. In fact, for many filmmakers a theatrical release is always the first preference.
But currently times are such that there is uncertainty regarding theatres opening any time soon.
"A few small and mid-budget films releasing on streaming services are not really going to impact the theatre business much. We would have lost on releasing a few good films with the new development, but it is not going to be easy to accommodate all the films in the limited window anyway. They have bankable stars but the subjects are unconventional. One is never sure whether they will work," said Umrotkar.
A similar view film and trade business analyst, Girish Johar had maintained in an earlier interview with Moneycontrol. He had said, "If we look from cinema's perspective, when big films come, smaller films get buried under them. Small films shy away because they don’t want to clash with the big films. So, when the small films are getting a window, why leave the opportunity?"
Umrotkar, further in his statement, said that while films releasing on OTT is the loss of opportunity for theatres, it however, is not an absolute loss.
He also added, "I feel the trend of releasing films on OTT platforms directly is a temporary phenomenon. I don't see this going beyond the lockdown. While OTTs are a reality, big film producers will prefer a theatrical release before a digital one. The overall collection from theatrical releases also surpasses what is garnered by directly releasing movies on OTT platforms."
Karan Taurani, Vice President, Elara Capital estimates that OTTs that are acquiring films for direct to digital release may not be paying more than 20 percent to 30 percent over the cost of production. In that case, OTTs are not viable for big releases.
But according to him even for small and mid-size films a direct OTT release will put a cap in its collection.“Movies like Uri: The Surgical Strike and Kabir Singh could have never surpassed Rs 250 crore collection had they not released in cinemas," he said. While Uri was made at a budget of Rs 44 crore, Shahid Kapoor-starrer Kabir Singh’s budget stood at Rs 68 crore,” he said.